Jean (McClelland) Menzies


Jean Menzies
Surname as Student: McClelland
Education: Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home

Where: Presbytery of Toronto
Denomination: Presbyterian Church of Canada
  • 1916 - Disjoined, married Garnet Menzies

  • 1913-1916: Deaconess, Knox Presbyterian Church (Regina), Regina, SK

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In the spring of 1913, Miss Jean McClelland, originally from Fort Erie, Ontario, graduated from the Presbyterian Deaconess and Training Home in Toronto and traveled west to Regina to begin her short career as a Deaconess with the “Mother Church” of that city: Knox Presbyterian.

She would have arrived to a city still reeling from the devastation wrought by the tornado of June 30, 1912 that leveled a good part of Regina.  The church itself experienced extensive damage.  “Knox Ladies’ Aid lost all their silverware and found one heavy teaspoon bent out of shape on a lawn three blocks away.”[1]  But more significantly, of the 28 people who died, nine were members of Knox.

Regina was growing in population in those early years of the decade, and Knox birthed a number of new congregations.  In 1912, 140 communicant members departed to start Westminster. In 1913, Jean shared in delivering farewell greetings to another 66 who were the charter members of Carmichael. The Knox annual report for that year describes the situation.  “As a result of the more than liberal assistance extended by this congregation, there are now in the city of Regina, including our own Church, five aggressive Presbyterian organizations, having enrolled approximately two thousand members with five ministers, one Ruthenian[2] missionary and one Deaconess.”[3] Impressive in the context of a period of economic depression in Regina.

The responsibilities of the Deaconess were varied, and included work with Sunday School for children and adults, (Bible Class Picnic 1914) as well as what would today be called an outreach ministry to newcomers, called Strangers’ Work at the time.  In the mid 1910s Knox had an active spirit of evangelism.  Much of the social ministry conducted was with an aim to grow the church.  The tough economic climate resulted in a large urban presence of people living in poverty. Services to this group were offered to try and make their lives a bit more pleasant with the hope that would entice them into membership.

Jean describes her work one year into her appointment this way,[4]

One was overwhelmed when they found themselves the only Presbyterian deaconess in a large city, but God had work to be done, and strength was given.  Lonely girls, and there are many, occupy a large part of the time, a rest-room open from 12 to 2, enables one to meet with many during the dinner hour, and here one after another can be cheered.   One said: “Many thanks for your kindness in remembering a sadly discouraged and sick girl, when one is down and out it helps a lot to feel that after all humanity is not quite stony-hearted.”

As Jean’s second year at Knox gets underway in the summer of 1914, the rising tensions in Europe break out into war.  A dramatic shift of focus for the congregation occurs, with church expansion set aside to support the war effort, despite the continuation of the economic depression into the first years of the war.

This description of the work of a Deaconess comes from the Annual Report of the Committee on the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home[5] in 1915 may not be written by Jean, but is indicative of the work she did:

Work is so varied, so rich in experience, it is difficult to talk about. The war has affected everything, and touched everyone in some way, or another, and so the church has had a very busy winter full of unusual experience.  The heartiness with which people have responded to the unnumbered calls has been a marvel and a wonderful comfort to those to whom these calls have come.  The weariness, heart-sickness, untold suffering and privation makes the heart go out in unceasing prayer for peace. … A ‘Friendly Bible Class’ for [newcomers to the city] has been organized whose aim is to be a friend to the friendless.  The girls have become interested in work for others, and have contributed not only a goodly parcel to the Red Cross Society, but at Christmas supplied sox and wristlets to the churches’ representatives in [the World War 1 battle field] Salisbury Plain.

Jean would have been involved in the increasing war related activities of the Knox Congregation. By 1915 the Ladies’ Aid was less worried about the state of their cutlery and now almost exclusively focused on patriotic work.  Parcels were sent in general support of the soldiers, and special efforts went to bringing cheer to Knox members at the Front.

Jean’s focus on the war effort must have been somewhat diverted to affairs closer to home because sometime in 1915 or 1916 she marries a member of the Knox congregation, Garnet N. Menzies and she is disjoined from the Deaconess Order.  The rules of the Order make it clear that it is only for single women.  Jean continues as a member of the congregation, welcoming her replacement, Martha May Sleeth in the summer of 1916.

In 1917, Knox creates the Knox Church Women’s Association with objectives to support  Regina’s men overseas and their families.  “Mrs. G. N. Menzies” is the Vice President.  One objective of the organization strongly mimics the goals for her diaconal ministry, and it isn’t hard to imagine her influence in its construction.   “To welcome strangers and new families, to foster the spirit of sociability and to render other forms of Christian Service as may be deemed advisable in the interests of the congregation.”[6]

Jean and Garnet had three children, Arthur (November 2, 1925 – November 15, 2009), Sheena (died 1955) and Mary (died 2004).

In 1948 Garnet became the mayor of Regina and served in that capacity until 1951.

Written by Caryn Douglas, July 2012

[1] Let The Bells Ring, Knox-Metropolitan United Church, Regina 1882-1982, An Illustrated History by Dorothy Hayden, pg 61.  Other details about Regina in this period are from this book.

[2]The term was used predominantly to refer to East Slavs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or to Ukrainians or Little Russians of the Russian Empire.

[3] Ibid, pg 60.

[4]The Report of the Committee on the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home, 1913-1914, p 204, The Acts and Proceedings of the 40thst General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Woodstock, Ontario, June 3-10, 1914.  The excerpts from “Deaconess Reports” are anonymous, however the biographical detail in this excerpt determines it is written by Jean McClelland.

[5] The Report of the Committee on the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home, 1914-1915, p 205, The Acts and Proceedings of the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Kingston, Ontario, June 2-10, 1915. It is only attributed to a “deaconess from the west”.

[6] Let The Bells Ring, pg 62.